Picking them up; Putting them down
My daughter, two years old, has always been on the smaller side. In her first two years, she consistently ranked amongst the lower percentages of children her age with regard to height and weight. We’re talking >5%. We took some pride in this when she began crawling and moving around earlier than many of her peers, and showing a fearlessness. She was climbing up steps around 7-months. She was walking before she turned one. She’d throw herself from the window seat onto our couch.
And so many of these things remain true. Still small, still fearless.
I learned the other day, though, that she’s getting older. She makes us laugh on a daily basis.
“Get your booty over here,” she said playfully to me, coaxing me into the adjacent room for a “check up.”
“I not like the boys in my class,” she said, to my delight, preferring her friends Zoey and McKayla, the latter whom she refers to as “Ms. Kayla.”
She recited Humpty Dumpty from memory.
It was bed time and we did our daily reading. That night’s choice was, “If You Decide to Bring an Alligator to School, Don’t!” She loves it. She loves to emphasize the, “Don’t!” We said our goodnights. Hug and a kiss for Gabby the dog first. A hug and kiss for her little brother, who was eating with mom; A hug and a kiss for mom.
“I want to go to bed by myself, Daddy,” she tells me.
“Okay,” I reply as she walks off into some abstract independence.
I followed her up the stairs, down the hallway, and into her pink and purple bedroom. She climbed the crib bars and propelled herself into bed. She laid herself onto her pillow and pulled her covers up to her chin.
“Goodnight, I love you,” she says. I kissed my hand and put it onto her forehead.
“I love you too. See you in the morning.”
“See you in the morning [two syllables at a time: see-you (pause) in-the (pause) mor-ning], Daddy.”
There will be a day when I put her down and never pick her up again. She’ll be too big, too old to need her dad’s help down some set of stairs or across a parking lot; She won’t need my assistance to reach the countertop to smell a pot of simmering marinara. This realization happens with all parents. We never know when we’ll put our child down for the very last time because they simply don’t need our help anymore.
It’s not a mournful piece, as such it sounds. It’s a reflection upon the passage of time. There’s no reason to think otherwise, but I find myself hoping I’ll be there for all the major events of my children’s life, like my parents were for mine. Having kids has made me reflect on these selfish desires more than I ever thought that I would.
Being home all day long makes it easy to wallow in many different depths of despair, particularly if work is slow or the weather is bad or it’s just one of those days. It’s easy to worry about the future with regard to our kids (especially when the President-elect doesn’t believe in things like climate change). But, in the midst of it all, I am constantly reminded of how good life is: when my son smiles and charges toward me; when my daughter strings together a hilarious combination of phrases. And most of all, when I put them to bed, snugly wrapped in a blanket “burrito,” knowing that they still need me sometimes. Even if it’s just once a day.